Albert Einstein famously stated: “Once you stop learning, you start dying”. This maxim applies to all areas of life, including my personal passion: cooking. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, there are always more techniques to learn, new flavors to experiment with and textures to explore. The culinary arts are a life-long journey that will continue to challenge and inspire you. Best of all, at the end of it, you get to savour the delicious tastes and aromas of what you have created. You might be well justified in feeling that you are quite the dab hand in the kitchen. However, here are a few weapons that even seasoned cooks can add to their armoury to take their skills to the next level:
Pot Calling the Kettle
Many of my friends have invested huge sums in renovating their kitchen and acquiring the best appliances. However, too many of them forget one of the most important elements – the best quality cookware. Make no mistake, the pots, pans, skillets and other implements you use to cook can make a palpable difference to the quality of the food that you produce. A good piece of cookware won’t stick and will cook evenly across the surface. Efficient heat distribution allows you to cook efficiently at lower temperatures, giving you far greater control over the cooking process.
Braising the Bar
Braising is a technique used to tenderise and enhance the natural essence of meats. Quickly brown the meat on all sides over medium to high heat to bring out the delicate aromas. For a more advanced braise, remove the meat, create a simple mirepoix in the same pot, then return the meat and gently cook in the liquid. Dishes such as stews, Osso Bucco, beef bourguignon, stroganoffs and even Indian curries will take on a sophisticated flavor that will make your mouth water.
A Boy Named Sous Vide
You may have heard the term bandied about, but not everyone fully understands the new and exciting technique. Sous Vide refers to a style of cooking in a vacuum sealed bag. However, its definition has extended to include any type of slow cooking in a water bath with precision temperature control, whether with a vacuum sealed bag or not. The beauty of sous vide is that it provides you with unparalleled levels of control over the temperature, giving exceptional flexibility over the timing of your cook. Most importantly, this method allows you to slowly cook foods incredibly evenly while locking in the moisture, which results in unimaginably tender meats and vibrant vegetables.
Technology has made huge contributions to the way that we cook. One of the most exciting advances in food-tech is foam siphons. These handy little tools pressure inject nitrous oxide or carbon dioxide into foods to achieve light, smooth, fluffy textures. Originally used to perfect whipped creams and mousses, enterprising chefs have experimented with ways to create exquisite batters, deliciously light sauces, spectacular sponges and even delectable pickles and infused liquors. The possibilities are endless, and the amazing results will be well worth the price of the equipment.
Looking the Part
It has been scientifically proven that food that looks good is perceived as tasting better. Spending some time learning how to plate expertly will not only add to the sensory experience of the meal by making your food look stunning, it will also enhance the flavour. You will also gain immense satisfaction from placing beautifully presented dishes in front of your family or guests.
Hopefully, this has given you some food for thought that will help you expand your repertoire and continue your development in the kitchen.